A first edition pop-up copy of Cinderella will be on display at the Fair from Brick Row Book Shop.

Next month, San Francisco hosts the 40th California International Antiquarian Book Fair with more than 240 booksellers from the world gathering to display and sell rare books from almost every genre imaginable.

Organized under the auspices of the ABAA (Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America) and ILAB (International League of Antiquarian Booksellers), the fair takes place from Friday, February 16th to Sunday 18th at the Concourse Exhibition Center on 635 Eighth Street and is one of the landmark events in the rare book world calendar.

“The ABAA has two chapters in California – one in the south and one in the north, so we rotate the fair between the cities of Los Angeles and San Francisco,” explained Michael Hackenberg, chairman of the event’s committee and owner of Hackenberg Booksellers which specializes in scholarly, out-of-print, rare and unusual books, and is located near Berkeley.

“The fair attracts sellers and buyers from all over the world but because of our geographic position on the Pacific Rim we see lots of Asian customers coming, especially buyers from Japan.”

Visitors will see a strong contingent of dealers from the Bay Area and the entire Golden State in general, but some of the finest rare booksellers from the UK, France, Germany and many other countries will also be present.

“You’re going to see the most unbelievable, most extraordinary books,” added Michael. “A couple of years ago, I remember seeing some Dutch books – when you opened them, they contained secret information for the Resistance and were distributed by mothers who transported them in prams. The books run the gamut of every subject.”

San Francisco’s Brick Row Book Shop, one of the oldest antiquarian book firms in the United States, will be displaying a true gem at the fair – one of the earliest pop-up books for children. A first edition of Cinderella from Dean’s New Scenic Books from 1855-56, this book was the third one in the series following Little Red Riding Hood and Robinson Crusoe. The pop-up pieces are complete and still working. It is priced at $6,500.


A $125,000 copy of Ebbi Komödie. Courtesy of the Colebrook Book Barn.

A first time exhibitor at the event will be Robert Seymour, who runs the Colebrook Book Barn in Connecticut. He is bringing along a true treat for art lovers – a signed 1924 first edition of Ebbi Komödie written and illustrated by German expressionist artist Max Beckmann. Number 19 of just 33 copies, this copy, complete with six signed whole page dry etchings hand colored by the artist, of the play was recently exhibited at the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain. It is priced at $125,000.

An example of a quintessential Californian seller who will be exhibiting is the Argonaut Bookshop from Sutter Street in San Francisco. Owner Robert D. Haines Jr., whose father was one of the founding members of the ABAA, will be displaying a complete collection of more than 50 Jack London first editions and various other items connected to the San Francisco-born author famous for Call of the Wild and White Fang. The collection is priced at five figures.


Some of the Jack London first editions that will be on display from Argonaut Bookshop.

The Argonaut Bookshop specializes in local history with an inventory stretching back to the earliest books written about San Francisco and including key events like the Gold Rush, the influence of the railway, and the 1906 earthquake and fire.

“I’ll be bringing a huge book called the Historical Lithographs of San Francisco,” added Robert, who has been in the bookselling business for 37 years. “One of only 150 copies, this book presents bird’s eye views of the city and is a good example of a modern, rare book.”

The Argonaut Bookshop will also have a copy of The Complete Writings of Elbert Hubbard – a 20-volume set from 1910. Hubbard was a former soap salesman who founded an arts and crafts community in East Aurora, near Buffalo, New York. “Hubbard was a very important figure in the American arts community,” added Robert.

Another exhibitor, Tavistock Books, from Alameda, California, highlighted a couple of particularly interesting books from their inventory that will be on show. Owned by Vic Zoschak, Tavistock is one of the leading sellers of rare Charles Dickens books but his stock stretches into the 17th century.


Patriarcha by Sir Robert Filmer. Find this copy from Tavistock Books

The first, Patriarcha (Or The Natural Power of Kings) by Sir Robert Filmer from 1680 is priced at $5,500. A landmark book in defending the rights of the monarchy to rule, this copy comes from the library of scholar Peter Laslett.

The second, the Anatomy of a Pygmy by Edward Tyson from 1751 is priced at $9,350. “Tyson was an eminent physician and scientist and in many ways this book set the scene for Darwin’s work,” said Zoschak. “He argued for the ‘great chain of being’ and developed his theories through empirical research and dissection of animals.”

The fair aims to attract novice collectors as well as hardcore bibliophiles with deep pockets. On the Sunday, a ‘Discovery Day’ will be staged where visitors can receive free appraisals on up to three books between 1:30pm and 3pm. On the same day, there will also be two book-related seminars: ‘Book Collecting 101’ at 12 noon followed by ‘What is This Book Worth?’ from 1pm to 1:30pm.


Edward Tyson's 1751 work Anatomy of a Pygmy.

Zoschak will lead the seminars along with other members of the ABAA’s northern California chapter. Book Collecting 101 covers what to collect and useful strategies, spotting first editions, how to judge condition, book terms and jargon, where to buy, and where to find more information. What’s This Book Worth will tackle the commonly held assumption that an old book is a valuable book.

Look out for Nick Basbanes – the author famed for his books about books and book collecting. He will be signing copies of his latest title, Every Book Its Reader: The Power of the Printed Word to Stir the World, between 12 noon and 2pm on Saturday, February 17th. Basbanes will also lead an hour-long seminar on book collecting at 2pm on Sunday.

The fair also features an exhibition from the San Francisco Public Library entitled ‘Contemporary Calligraphy in the World of Books’. Items are drawn from its Book Arts & Special Collections Center and its Richard Harrison Collection of Calligraphy & Lettering, a specialized subject collection established in 1963, which focuses on contemporary lettering arts.

Anyone wishing to learn more about calligraphy can attend a seminar at the book fair at 1pm on Saturday, February 17th, staged by three leading Bay Area lettering artists - Georgianna Greenwood, Thomas Ingmire and Arne Wolf.

On Friday, tickets at the door can be purchased for $15 for 3-day admittance. On Saturday and Sunday, tickets are $10 and include entry to the remainder of the fair. ABAA and ILAB members admitted free upon showing membership card.

More details about the California International Antiquarian Book Fair can be found at www.sfbookfair.com.

See more book fairs taking place this year